The final conviction was secured today in a £500 Mn. West Yorkshire, money laundering case, which used the 'Hawala' banking system as a cover. The fraud was exposed after a covert surveillance operation by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), and an investigation stretching over a decade, and has resulted in convictions totalling nearly 75 years.
Shahid Nazir Bhatti, 45, from Bradford, West Yorkshire was sent down for 3 years today after pleading guilty at Leeds Crown Court to conspiracy to launder the proceeds of criminal conduct and also conspiracy to launder the proceeds of George Cockerill's (now deceased aged 76) criminal conduct. Bhatti is the last of 11 individuals to be convicted after the pursuit over several years after a massive Yorkshire based money laundering ring was uncovered in 2001.
The scheme involved several travel agencies in West Yorkshire;
The Bradford Travel Centre, owned and run by the Bhatti family, which illegally laundered more than £42 million illegal cash between 1999 and 2001. (see pic of Shahid Bhatti)
Watan Travel, 17 Lilycroft Road, Bradford, and 743 Stratford Road, Sparkhill, Birmingham - From Dec 97 to Feb 01, Watan Travel processed more than £333 million through its accounts - an average weekly taking of around £2 million. One client alone had more than £80 million laundered with more than £3.3 million being handled on a single day.Liaquat Ali 44, (12 years see BBC) - Akhtar Hussain 46, (12 years) and Mohsan Khan (8 years) were found guilty of managing this enterprise for the purposes of moneylaundering.
Ramzan Travel 68 Hopwood Lane, Halifax, HX1 4DG: owned by Amer Ramzan who got 12 years.
It was a Bradford Travel agency (none of the above and one not involved in money laundering) where a WPC was shot dead during the course of robbery undertaken by Yusuf Jamma, 20, his brother Mustaf and Muzzaker Shah, and Raza ul-Haq Aslam, 25, of Kentish Town, north London, Faisal Razzaq, 25, and his 26-year-old brother, Hassan. It was claimed in court that the robbers expected to steal £100,000 cash.
For those interested The Washing Machine by Nick Kochan provides a detailed and handy analysis how to stash away the loot offshore and freshly laundered, often with the help of top City lawyers and bankers.